1. Joshua A
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    Joshua A Member

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    plot writing woes

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Joshua A, Sep 23, 2014.

    I have a basic plot of a story that I wanted to write, which I eventually got around to doing through NaNo...however, the story that I wrote wildly veered from what I meant to have happen via the plot.

    Now, the story I have written is far from done, but I'd like advice on a couple things.

    First, how can I write a plot that the story doesn't seem to run away from? Am I trying to hard to conform to a certain idea or storyline? I feel like that might be a possible issue.

    The second is, and this is slightly worse, but how exactly do you write a good plot? I've seen all the stuff like "starting" and "plateauing" and "climax" and stuff, but that's all to...analytical for me, I suppose. I want to know how to write a 'creative' plot, not something structured.

    I hope this is detailed enough to explain my woes; since they do not pertain to any one story I have written(I have a few), but to all of them, I decided not to include details to keep it simple. If details should be included, please tell me so I can do such.

    Thanks!
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's hard to address your questions without knowing a little more. Do you like the story you ended up with? Who cares it changed is my thought.

    As for the story arc, you probably need a good critique to judge that. I haven't focused much on story arc but I have concerned myself with moving the story forward. Readers get bored if you don't.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't worry about plot - it shows up as I write.
     
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  4. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    I had that issue as well and just ended up giving in. The characters have there own paths to choose, and while I am the ultimate decision maker, sometimes the ending of my stories are wildly different than what I intended.
     
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  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I've always heard that it's best to focus on asking these things: 'why did this happen?', 'how did this happen?', and 'what will happen next?' The story would flow from there.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Plot is the jam that hold everything together. Take Star Wars - the plot is those rebel alliance plans. Getting them into the right hands and defeating the enemy ( by blowing up the death star ) is the plot take that away - and you have no major or minor goals for Luke Skywalker aside from cleaning robots or dreaming of excitment, you have no meeting with Obi Wan, no kidnapped Princess, no blowing up planets, or hiring Hans Solo.
    There's happenings and the plot is the reason for those happenings.
     
  7. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    In answer to your first question, by not trying to tightly control it. The big issue is the story's that rattle around in our head are mostly tropes. They are easy and that is why they are there. But they are also flat, they have a basic structure but lack the little twists and turns that make something really live. When your [trope] plot takes an unexpected turn it's not something to fear, it could be the right thing to embrace.

    My WIP is based on a plot premise of unrequited love. Simple enough, female #1 loses love interest to female #2, sparking revenge in female #1 and resolved when she finds love of her own. But this is a boring plot, we've seen it hundred of times before. The story was stillborn until all those little deviations started to pop up here and there. Now I have a variation on that theme which really is worth telling.

    In answer to your second question. You write a good plot by drawing on life's experience and letting that colour the trope you've chosen until it is no longer recognisable as that trope. So then you have something of true interest, that still has that timeless quality of saying something about life. I don't plan a story from beginning to end describing every scene and character motivation along the way. To do so would kill the story. I live for the little bits of life that come to me along the way. As each idea pops up I examine it, see if it has something of value to offer, if so, then I include it, allowing it to rehape my story into a more interesting form. If I throw it out then I continue on as planned until the next deviation inspires me. I like writing in this way. It helps me to tell a story that wants to be told, rather than a story I want to tell.

    But everyone's different.
     
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  8. Joshua A
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    Joshua A Member

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    That's what ended up happening. I don't mind because what I wrote was rather unique, but it's also filled with holes. It's very..as PensiveQuill stated, 'flat'.

    I know the story is good, personally. But I was wondering how to take the plot, and fill it out. I have difficulty with that. How to make the 'flatness' more realistic. I saw that I should add real life experience in there or something. But I'm not sure how to work that in. With all my writing, not just this one story. How to insert things without it looking like it was inserted.

    Is that just something developed from doing it anyways? I hope I'm not wasting time here..
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you may be making a mistake by thinking that a structured plot is somehow not creative.

    The basic structure of a plot (whether you follow the three act structure or any other 'theory' of plot) is the skeleton on which you hang your creativity. If the most exciting thing happens at the beginning of your book, everything else is literally anticlimactic. If the tension doesn't build through the story and the events aren't part of a larger whole, the story is episodic (which is generally bad for a novel). Etc.

    Some people are naturals at creating plot and can come up with good ones without really thinking about structure - but that doesn't mean it's not there. If you're dissatisfied with your attempts so far, maybe you're not a plotting natural and you do need to think about the structure. If that's the case, take the time to figure it out. There's still lots of room for creativity.
     
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  10. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    This is difficult to explain so I'll try and illustrate with an example. In my original story I had 4 POV characters and I still do. But in the beginning although all those characters had a part in the overall plot, they weren't tightly interrelated with each other, they were kind of like little universes unto themselves with only minimal interaction with each other. This was the stage where I thought my plot was full of holes as you've put it. They're not holes as such because the basic plot still works but there is something missing.

    The story really came to life when I sat down and asked each character what do you want out of this situation? How will you profit and how will you lose? I literally sat down on morning and interviewed each character separately on paper. I put this question to them then let them tell me what their deepest motivations were and how the situation affected them personally. What I learned made my story whole.

    Each of my 4 POV characters were tightly interwoven with each other. There was a degree of separation between them in some instances, where the actions of one character indirectly affects another through a domino effect. But there were also direct relationships between characters that I hadn't even considered. And adding those relationships in (a few of them are only revealed at a the end) now gives the story a richness in complexity and fills in that gaps. It's no longer just a series of actions, it's a complete fabric in which my characters weaknesses, lusts and power needs all bring that basic plot together with a level of intrigue I never considered myself capable of.

    Some of the twists and turns, if I had been thinking about them from an author's POV would have likely spawned extra's in my story who's sole function would be to perform an action then go away. That would have weakened the plot. But by those actions being performed by my POV characters for reasons I now completely understand it works a lot better.
     
  11. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    I am not of the mindset that you can let plot just appear out of nowhere. A well-paced plot needs to move, to keep the reader engaged. There are different paces for different genres. Romance? You can go a little slower. Sci-fi/thriller? You better have constant action/reaction dynamics. Randy Ingermanson really goes into this. He uses the snowflake method. http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/ I'm finishing up a story now, but for my next one, I'll be using this to see how I like it. Basically, you pick three or so major events that happen, then go in and fill in the smaller ups and downs to get to each event. Then you write from that outline. Each event must be sparked by something. Each chapter must have the character moving toward a clear goal. You can read more about it in the ending chapter of Oxygen, Randy's sci-fi book that he co-authored. It was eye-opening for me. He put it in writing tips at the end.

    Character-driven writing can get you only so far if you don't have the movement you need to create an exciting story. We get too caught up in moments that don't actually do anything for the plot. It's writer indulgence and an unhealthy obsession with our characters that trips us up. We need to think about the reader over ourselves. Still struggling with this, but I'm getting better at recognizing it.
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    A plot can develop just as characters do. If you need to work on plot first, then that's what you need to do. Other writers don't. Once again, as with almost everything else to do with writing, what works for one will fail miserably for another.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    There are inherent dangers in any approach to constructing a story. aren't there? I figure the trick it to recognise what these dangers are, and work to avoid them.

    For example, a character-driven story with an organically derived plot can, as @Artist369 pointed out, get bogged down in the writer's love for the character. The challenge for that writer is to be ruthless in the edit, paring down anything that doesn't move the organically-grown plot forward to a plausible finish.

    The danger in a plot-driven story is that characters can be created for use as game pieces. I need somebody to set off this bomb, so I'll create a bomber ...let's see now, we'll dress her in black and give her a grudge... You end up with a plot that moves too fast. There is no time to develop characters at all, and nothing to keep the reader moving forward except the game itself. The reader won't care deeply about any person in your story. So if you write by devising the plot first, you need to sit back, take your time with the actual writing of it, and make sure your characters become real enough to engage the reader. (And who knows. You do that, and your plot might well take an 'organic' turn or two!)

    It's a matter of understanding where each method can go wrong, I reckon.
     
  14. Joshua A
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    Joshua A Member

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    YES! I think this is the problem. I knew, in a way, what I wanted to have happen in my story, but it was my character that actually did the things, instead of me, the author, presenting the challenges. That makes everything a lot more clear.

    This I think will help me out a lot. I will apply that method, and try writing something from it. I like the idea of getting an idea, adding a framework to it, but letting the characters flesh the story out. That seems something that I am capable of doing. I had no inkling of these concepts, and you guys opened my eyes for me! Thank you so much :)
     
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  15. Joshua A
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    Joshua A Member

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    Let me try out this idea, see if what I've got is the right idea..The plot/storyline here will be the tale of a ruler, Jane(for simplicity) who is deposed, and then wins her power back. Let's start with three major plot points...:
    • major event number 1: Enemies to the state depose Jane
    • major event number 2: Jane finds ally far from her state willing to help
    • major event number 3: Jane wins back her rule, and drives out the unnamed enemies.
    After this point, we should be filling in the supporting details, to flesh it out:
      • Jane makes mistake that upsets people concerning her rule
      • Tries to put down a rebellion, but doesn't expect a real enemy to be helping
      • Finds out, but too late
    • major event number 1: Enemies to the state depose Jane
      • Jane tries to escape her country with her life, barely able to escape the city
      • Manages to leave, though w/ great hardship
      • Comes upon a nation, albeit small, that was unhappy with her deposing
    • major event number 2: Jane finds ally far from her state willing to help
      • From here, Jane needs to win the faith of the small nation
      • Things happen both for and against her favor
      • Eventually gains their backing, and moves upon her old country that was weakened with her deposition
    • major event number 3: Jane wins back her rule, and drives out the unnamed enemies.
      • She reconsolidates her power, and fixes the mistakes she made from the beginning
      • Turns out the people wanted her back, due to the invaders cruel rule

    So, this is my attempt at what Artist369 suggested concerning 'snowflaking', and what jannert suggested I try to avoid by entirely character-driven. This is my first attempt, so criticism would be loved! I based this upon a story idea I already had, so anything to help this will allow me to write a better story for it as well :)
     
  16. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Looks good! Yeah, you always want to make it seem hopeless during the second and third act to really build that tension, so that when the hero emerges triumphant, the reader will cheer aloud. Pulling in some forgotten details to solve the puzzle is also warranted. It brings the story back home and rewards the reader for picking things up, but you don't want to be too obvious. It's a fine balance. Then let your character drive the story with revealing but fresh dialogue and action in between. Don't forget to show their character progression. Like others have said, you don't want your character to simply be tools and plot devices. Add some unconventional aspects to them to break stereotypes, and show their inner choices through action.
     
  17. Joshua A
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    Joshua A Member

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    Awesome, thanks for the feedback! I think I just got unlocked for the writing forums, so maybe I'll start putting my work up there as well :)

    As to keeping things fresh, I'm hoping to do that just a little; I was starting with having a strong heroine being the main character. Normally that isn't done, at least in my experience of reading.
     

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